Peat Resources Limited is a Toronto-based clean energy company, listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, which was formed to develop and produce peat fuel. The Company has identified large biomass resources of fuel-grade peat on its properties in Ontario and Newfoundland. The northwestern Ontario property contains over 155 million tonnes, sufficient to supply OPG’s (Ontario Power Generation) northern generating stations for more than 20 years. In Newfoundland, over 40 million tonnes have been defined on about 9,000 hectares of permitted areas. Peat is biomass. It is used in electricity generating stations and other facilities requiring a long-term assured supply of environmentally favourable, economically competitive and consistent quality fuel. It`s also a source material for value-added biocarbon products such as activated carbon. Peat Resources Limited aims to be the principal supplier of peat fuel, on a profitable and sustainable basis, to the North American energy market.
When biomass such as peat is thermally decomposed in the absence of oxygen, one of the resulting products is biocarbon, typically a solid compound rich in carbon, and inorganic elements. A derivative form of biocarbon is activated carbon.
Activated carbon is a generic term for a family of highly porous carbons with an increased surface area for application in adsorption and reduction processes. For example, activated carbon adsorption is used to reduce heavy metal contamination in both gas and liquid phase. A wide variety of activated carbon products are available exhibiting markedly different characteristics depending upon the raw material and activation technique used in their production. Commercially, activated carbon is available in dry powders, granular chips, pellets, briquettes, liquids, and tablets.
The global market for activated carbon products is lucrative, currently under-supplied and experiencing abnormal market growth. The largest market for activated carbon products is for water filtration, treatment and purification, while the fastest growth segment application is for mercury capture and removal from flue gas streams of coal-fired power plants. Currently, global sales of activated carbon products total over $1.8 billion dollars.
Activated carbon is generally manufactured from coal or coconut shell-based materials but any suitable carbon-based material, including peat and wood, can be used as the source. The feedstock undergoes either chemical or physical activation. Chemical activation is primarily used in production of activated carbon for wastewater treatment. Physical activation usually produces either granular or pelletized products for gas purification, although physically activated carbon that is injected into gas streams for purification, as in mercury capture and removal from flue gas streams of electricity generators, must be crushed to a powder form.
Surface area and pore distribution of the carbon are directly associated with the adsorption characteristics of the product, and are influential in determining the appropriate application of the product. The source-material characteristics will have a major influence on the achievable surface area and pore distribution of the processed activated carbon.
Torrefaction enables the conversion of a heterogeneous supply of biomass, such as peat pellets, to a homogenous carbon well suited for manufacture of activated carbon. The marketing advantage is that most North American activated carbons are produced from non-renewable, GHG emitting sources, such as Texas Lignite or Central Appalachian Bituminous coals. Coal-based activated carbon also contains 10-20% ash, while when made from biomass sources it generally only has about 1-2% ash, thus increasing the carbon per pound produced.
Activated carbon has a diversified product market with over 150 specialized applications. It is used for potable water treatment and flue gas treatment, and for a variety of functions in the pharmaceutical, food, beverage, and oil and gas industries.
The adsorbing character of activated carbon is useful for many purposes, including municipal drinking water purification systems and in electrical power generation facilities for injections into the flue gas stream for mercury abatement programs. These markets, along with residential drinking water purification, have a tremendous growth potential.
Other specific adsorption applications include, but are not limited to, decolourisation of sugar and sweeteners, drinking water treatment, gold recovery, production of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals, off gas treatment of waste incinerators, automotive vapour filters, and the correction of colour and odour in wines and fruit juices.
Type of feedstock and activation technique influence the performance and quality of the activated carbon, and therefore indicate its most appropriate application.
Because of its wide range of applications and uses, trading of activated carbon is extensive and international. Global production is approximately 1.2 million tonnes and this is expected to increase over the next five years to about 1.9 million tonnes. Prices for activated carbon in international markets range from $500 to $3,000 per tonne dependent on quality of the product, with an average of $1,900 per tonne. Some very high quality activated carbon products sell for as much as $9,000 per tonne.
Current annual production of activated carbon in the United States is approximately 200 million kilograms, however, future forecast indicates that the U.S. demand for activated carbon will expand 4.3 percent annually to 475 million kilograms. Other estimates indicate much higher demand because U.S. EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act call for increased reduction of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and will require significantly greater usage of activated carbon.
Activated carbon use in automotive emission canisters is also benefiting from environmental legislation.